I’m back. Out of hiding. I’ve been laying low recently because parenting has been hard for me for the last few days. My just-turned 2 year old is beating up the baby when she gets the chance, shrieking at the top of her lungs whenever someone is speaking and not attending only to her, insisting on rituals and games and basically being a typical 2 year old.
My punitive background wants to “re-establish my authority” and pop her one. Whether it’s a slap or a spanking or biting her back after she bites the baby. I can talk the big talk about being gentle, but grace is not my gut reaction when I see defiance in my child.
But will it get me anywhere? Really? Spanked kids do all these things too. Study after study has found that spanked kids are significantly more aggressive toward other children than their non-spanked peers. Being told “Do it or I’ll hit you.” or “Do it or I’ll make you do it.” only teaches children that size and might make right. That using force is the best, and moral, way to get someone to do want you want. That force is how you get control. Which isn’t incorrect. Force is one way to get power. But it isn’t what I want to teach my children. Force does not teach them self-control, only to control others.
So where does that leave me? Like any parent, some days seem out of control. Like we have a ‘Lord of the Flies’ situation just behind the corner, ready to pounce. Mutiny at any moment. But the vast majority are not that desperate. Most are sweet and fun and filled with the warm, fuzzy moments that we dreamt about while pregnant.
The ‘under control’ days are awesome. Really, even on the rough days, most of the hours are awesome. Maybe having high expectations for my daughter makes a disappointing hour seem more bitter. Maybe asking myself to trust that she will grow and mature leaves room for insecurity. In the end, I’m choosing a non-violent way of raising her because I believe that’s what’s right. I’m choosing to be kind and loving and to show her grace because I just can’t compromise my values for convenience. Yes, hitting her would be quick and easy and would probably feel good. But none of those things, not even the sum of all those things, makes it right.
This means I require more of myself. More than knee-jerk reactions, more than lashing out physically (is that really different than an adult sized temper tantrum?), more than the inconsistent and irrational tools of my abusive parents. I read. I talk to people. I think for myself. And I take care of myself, so that I can make decisions. And that’s how I move forward.
After a few rough hours or days, I’ll re-evaluate my decisions, re-evaluate my responses to her behavior, and think about where I’m at. She is a two year old. She is going to make plenty of bad decisions. The bible says something about that. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) Then it goes further, and tells me what to do in my own predicament: “ and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24) My child is not exempt from the redemption of the cross. And I have been clearly directed to extend that grace to everyone I meet. Including the children I love so dearly.